Saturday, March 10, 2012

Meet your mental health professionals: Sharon Katz, owner of Collaborative Care in Abington, PA

Sharon Katz. Even my mom knows who Sharon is since one of her friends thinks she's the best therapist ever!

Today Sharon Katz of Collaborative Care gave a very informative talk about bipolar disorder.

Sharon has been a psychotherapist for 25 years. She's a holistic practitioner, meaning she takes the whole body and mind into account. I praised her at the end of the talk for saying her patients "have bipolar disorder." They are not bipolar, just as you are not cancer or diabetes.

I was also so impressed with her wide array of knowledge and approach to mental illness that I asked her to be on our Board of Directors, which is meeting the end of March.

It's always a joy to have my assistant Ada Moss Fleisher at these meetings.

Giant has about seven classrooms. In the largest room, at the end of the hallway, they were having a meeting on Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease for which prednisone is often prescribed. A dear friend and her husband got off the elevator on the second floor just as I was about to board it. We hugged and I said, See you at our Board Meeting.

You would never believe this active couple are in their mid-eighties!

Excerpts from the talk of Sharon Katz, FPMH-ARPN, CRNP
Executive Director, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

She received her Masters in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania, has her certification in Couples and Family Therapy from the Family Institute, and is Board Certified as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in adult Psychiatric Mental Health.
- I'm responsible for everyone who comes in our door. "13 therapists work for me and two psychiatrists, tho one is leaving." She is interviewing for another psychiatrist who specializes in treating bipolar disorder. [I actually gave her some names from our Top Doc list.]

- Psychiatrists tend to rely on OLD knowledge. They'll follow that pathway until they fall off the cliff.

- My focus is on evidence-based- practice: what has been proven by research to work for bipolar disorder. Not only should providers be on top of what the latest research says, but so should the patients.

- Bipolar disorder is the leading cause of disability worldwide! (Really? Hope I quoted her correctly.) I've coached depressed people who could not function to a functional level. Medicating the bipolar patient is a science not an art.

- Bipolar disorder is less severe in patients over 65 IF their illness has been managed correctly. The improvement is b/c of hormonal changes, changes in our brain, and emotional maturity. For some people, like Ruth Deming, it goes away entirely.

- Peer to peer support is crucial for managing bipolar, such as support groups led by lay people or in groups led by a professional, which she plans to start at CC.

- Sharon collaborates with each one of her patient's doctors, sharing lab test results. She reminded the audience the importance of knowing what other doctors prescribe to a patient. For example, adding steroids may cause mania or rage. (Happened to me when I had bipolar.)

- Patients have a 15-minute appt w/their psychiatrist. To help her evaluate you, patients should use a MOOD CHART. So easy to forget what happened between psych appts. This makes you more proactive. Any time you give inaccurate information - b/c you don't remember - your mood may cascade into highs or lows that endanger your health.

Nancy Youngblood, therapist at Collaborative Care passes out written material

- Do not waste your valuable time w/the psychiatrist by talking about trivia. You're there to talk about your mental health, not your brother/inlaw's wedding. Discuss those issues w/your therapist.

- A psychotherapist talks to you about your identity. When you have bipolar, sometimes you don't know if you got angry b/c it was deserved or b/c you were having a bipolar episode/outburst. The therapist talks to you about your dreams, what you want to accomplish. Yes, you can go back to school even though you're depressed now. The medication will work!

- Whole body approach. Get regular dental exams. Dental caries or tooth decay, usually caused by bacteria, can go straight to the heart and cause heart disease.

- Take vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B12, which is good for the nervous system; folate aka folic acid, and Vitamin D, also good for the brain and well-balanced electrolytes. Omega 3 fatty acids are important.

- Eat a well-balanced diet. A hi-carb diet makes you feel lethargic and tired.

- Bipolar people should understand their DEVELOPMENTAL issues. Many bipolar folks are "stuck" in childhood-dependent phases. They need to understand the way their original families interacted with them and each other. Who else in the family is afflicted? Most importantly, you CAN get out these dependent and/or unhealthy relationships.

- As a psychotherapist, I see things a patient cannot see, b/c he is inside his own mind. I observe him and see what he cannot. I can tell when a patient is insecure or withholding something that it's important to address, which is unconscious. After all, I've been in practice for 25 years.

- One of the things I do is help patients ADAPT to their new diagnosis of bipolar disorder. All modalities work, whether cognitive behavior therapy or psychodynamic therapy. The most important factor is trust in the therapist and psychiatrist.

- Hospitalization is necessary for safety issues: when a patient may harm himself or someone else; or when they can't handle their emotional impulsivity. If a person is not properly medicated, then hospitalization can become a revolving door. For low-income patients, meds are available for free or lo-cost from the manufacturer, when recommended by a provider. Med samples of some are also available at CC.

- If you don't want your loved one released from the hospital b/c you feel they are not ready - and we know how short hospital stays are these days - say these words: I am not responsible for their health. That said, no one will take the chance of releasing him if he's still sick.

- Horsham Clinic has an excellent Partial Program and provides t'portation. Creekwood also has an excellent Partial Program.

- Collaborative Care's nurse Nancy Youngblood will begin a women's group shortly. And hopefully Hugh Brenner will start a men's group.

- At Collaborative Care, we only take people with insurance. We are looking for ways to see patients who don't have much money. We're investigating several grant possibilities.

Joe Tartaglia just got a master's in counseling from LaSalle University. He's now interviewing for a job. As a therapist myself, my advice to Joe is: learn all you can. By attending Sharon's lecture, he learned a whole lot.

We had a nice crowd who asked good questions at the end. Many people did their shopping afterward at the crowded store. Fortunately I found a self-check-out with one station unoccupied. Scallions, unsalted almonds, punkin seeds, olive oil, and two jars of Planter's unsalted peanuts.

In the entrance-way with the automatic doors, Ada and I talked about how good the talk was.

"Shall I invite her to be on our Board of Directors?" I asked.

"Here she comes right now," said Ada, pointing to Sharon who was going to her car to get her wallet to buy groceries.

"I'd love to," she said.

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